Maryland vs. Illinois College Football Odds & Pick: How to Bet Friday’s Big Ten Battle (Sept. 17)
G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images. Pictured: Taulia Tagovailoa.
Maryland vs. Illinois Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Week 1 is the wild west. You get a decent sense of what teams will look like by using past data, TARP ratings, etc. It terrifies me to bet money on it, but the overall joy of football being back overcomes that fear.
Week 2 is the worst. I call it “overreaction week,” as Week 2 tends to be my worst betting week of the year. You get in your own head when trying to figure out the result of a game, easily swayed by a surprise team performance or a large upset — all to just be brought back down to earth by losing money on the next game. It’s the worst.
Now Week 3? Week 3 is where we start to hit our stride. A small sample size, yes, but the more data the merrier. We start to see who really might be bad or possibly know who to avoid until we get more data if they looked good at first and then flattened in the second game.
This all leads me to Maryland at Illinois. Maryland checks the boxes as a consistent, improved team, while Illinois is starting to look like who we thought it was — a bad football team.
Let’s dive in.
When I was blessed with the opportunity to contribute for The Action Network, Maryland was one of the first teams I wrote about. It has a special place in my heart this season. I even put a small piece on its season win total over six for some added investment.
Boy, is that investment starting to look good.
Going into this season, Maryland’s biggest weakness was quarterback play. You would think someone with the last name Tagovailoa would follow suit of his NFL brother, but the 2020 season said otherwise.
This season? The offense is a whole different story.
At the end of the 2020 season, Maryland finished near dead last in Finishing Drives. It couldn’t get past the 40, constantly relying on the rare explosive play. Not a recipe for success.
Flash forward to today. Maryland has made a very respectable leap in Finishing Drives, ranking 50th — a big component in its successful start. This is in large part due part to quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa.
Tagovailoa has been balling out. So far into this season, he’s thrown for 606 yards, six touchdowns, and zero interceptions. He has not even thrown for one turnover-worthy play yet. That’s very impressive compared to what we saw last season.
Wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr. has racked up 261 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Fellow WR Rakim Jarret is right behind Demus with 189 yards and two touchdowns as well.
Taulia and the Terps play have them firmly in the top 20 in Passing Success, and the offensive line is eighth in pass blocking. They still have plenty to improve on elsewhere in the offense if they want to take the next leap.
While the passing has been great, the rushing and line play have some need for improvement. Currently ranking 54th in Rushing Success and 72nd in Line Yards, the Terps have had to heavily rely on the passing game for their success.
If Maryland wants to keep opposing defenses on their toes, the running game needs to improve. The offensive line will need to generate more of a push to help get Tayon Fleet-Davis and Co. going. So far, Fleet-Davis has rushed for 189 yards and one touchdown.
Copycatting the offense in 2020, the Maryland Terps defense also struggled with Finishing Drives. Finishing the season 114th in Def. Finishing Drives, Maryland couldn’t get past the 40 or stop opponents from scoring after the 40.
Bringing back a Def. TARP of 96%, it was a strong estimation that the Maryland defense was going to improve. Improve it did.
As of writing, Maryland ranks 30th in Rushing Success, 32nd in Passing Success, 26th in Havoc, and 49th in Finishing Drives — modest improvements in most categories.
In previous writing, I said this defense was going to be led by the secondary. Both defensive backs Nick Cross and Tarheeb Still would lead this defense, and so far, they are off to a good start.
Still leads the team in tackles with 10 and also has one sack. Cross has six tackles on the season and one interception. It’s also worth noting freshman linebacker Branden Jennings is making an impact by being second on the team with tackles with eight so far.
Although it’s a small sample size so far, the defense is showing signs of improvement, which can help bump up Maryland from the bottom of the basement in the Big Ten.
Illinois represents everything I hate about betting on college football in Week 2.
Starting the season with an impressive win over Nebraska in Week 0, it followed up that game with a narrow loss to UTSA as the favorite (-4.5) and a blowout against Virginia (+10.5).
The Illini look to get back on track with a win over Maryland as a 7.5-point underdog.
News broke out this week that quarterback Brandon Peters will be retaking the reins to the offense. In 17 games with the Illini, Peters has thrown for 2,348 yards, 21 touchdowns, and eight interceptions.
This season, he started by completing three of his four passes for 35 yards before going down with an injury. His backup, Artur Sitkowski, has been modest as his replacement. Sitkowski has thrown for 611 yards, six touchdowns, and one interception with a 56.9% completion rate.
With Brandon Peters returning, he will want to rely on wide receiver Isaiah Williams, who has been off to a hot start. He has caught 19 passes for 183 yards and one touchdown up to this point.
This has all resulted in a Passing Success Rate of 86th. The offensive line also needs to shore up the pressure, as it owns a Pass Blocking Rate of 91st. Not good. This will not bode well when going up against Maryland’s 32nd-ranked Def. Passing Success Rate.
It’s tough to gauge how the passing matchup will go as the numbers are dominantly based on the backup’s play.
Ranking 48th in Rushing Success, the Illini have found moderate success on the ground. Running back Mike Epstein has rushed for a total of 107 yards and one touchdown while Reggie Love III has added another 83 yards on the ground.
The Illini will have to find some sort of success if they want to keep this close, as Maryland is ranked top 35 in both Def. Passing Success and Rushing Success.
Before last week’s game, the Illini defense allowed a Success Rate of 45% and 4.5 points per opportunity. Those numbers did not improve at all, as Virginia routed them to the tune of a 42-14 finish.
Simply put, the Illini defense is bad. It ranks near the bottom of the barrel in Def. Passing Success at 116th and 76th in Def. Rushing Success.
Teams are also scoring at will against it. Currently 98th in Finishing Drives, if a team gets past the 40, it will score on Illinois. That’s something to monitor as a potential live under play, as Maryland has a history of choking at the 40, although improved this season.
A big reason why the defense is playing so poorly is the lack of Havoc. Currently ranked 73rd in Def. Havoc, the Illini are simply not doing enough to disrupt opposing offenses’ rhythm.
Defensive back Kerby Joseph has the team’s lone interception in three games. The team also has a total of six sacks, an average of two per game.
The defense is simply allowing opposing offenses to get into a rhythm and execute their game plan with no fear of disruptions.
Maryland vs. Illinois Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Maryland and Illinois match up statistically:
Maryland Offense vs. Illinois Defense
Illinois Offense vs. Maryland Defense
Pace of Play / Other
Maryland vs. Illinois Betting Pick
The number opened up in Maryland’s favor at -6 and quickly jumped to -7.5 as of writing. We project this at 6.9, right in line with the number. That’s not where my attention is focused.
I’m taking a good hard look at the total. Tagovailoa has been nothing short of spectacular to start this season, and this weekend should be no different.
Illinois ranks near the bottom in most defensive metrics and will struggle to contain Maryland’s hot offense. What it really comes down to is finishing drives.
Maryland has had a history of not being able to finish past the 40. This season has shown more success, and it has an opportunity to build on that by going against Illinois.
With both teams slightly below average in plays per minute and the possibility of Maryland’s defense shutting down Illinois’ offense, this shows some value on the under.
We project the total at 58.9, showing a slight difference at the current number of 60.5. I will be playing the full-game under for a half-unit to start with and will look to add more live as the game goes on.
If Illinois can show some improvement in limiting Finishing Drives and the Maryland offense regresses toward the mean, then you can expect to cash that under.